General and Introductory Materials
Part 2 History of the Liturgy

Chapter d29a Vatican II [1960-1975 CE]

Preliminary Questions


The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II

Constitution on the Liturgy:  Commentary

Constitution on the Church:  Outline

Constitution on the Church:  Commentary

Working Groups


Major-Post Concilium Instructions

Sacramental Theology at the Time of Vatican II

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

How old were you in 1965 as the Mass began to be celebrated in the vernacular? What do you remember of the liturgy before the Second Vatican Council? With what feelings do you remember those rites?

Have you ever read the documents of the Second Vatican Council? Have you studied the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy?  What importance do you place on this type of document for your study of theology? For your spiritual life?

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Second Vatican Council. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. i-36.

Kenan Osborne. The Christian Sacraments of Initiation (New York: Paulist Press, 1987).

Robert Cabie. The Eucharist, New Edition 1986. Vol II of The Church at Prayer, G. Martimort editor. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1986, pp 187-220.

Nathan Mitchell. Cult and Controversy: The Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press [A Pueblo Book], 1982, pp 201-215.

Bernard Botte. From Silence to Participation: An Insider's View of Liturgical Renewal, Washington DC: The Pastoral Press, 1988.

Annibale Bugnini. The Reform of the Liturgy (1948-1975), Collegeville: The Liturgical Press. 1571-6. Hardcover, 1000 pp. $59.50. [Publisher: Here is the definitive work on the Second Vatican Council as described by one who participated in it from its inception. As secretary of the preparatory commission on the liturgy (1960-1962), peritus of the Second Vatican Council and its commission on the liturgy, secretary of the Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Liturgy (1964-1969), and secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship (1969-1975), Bugnini is in the unique position to tell the complete story of the reform of the Roman liturgy. His careful account of the development of the rites illuminates the meanings and purposes behind the reforms, as well as the compromises that were made for the sake of reform.]

Piero Marini. A Challenging Reform: Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal, Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2007.  $15.95.    ISBN 978-0-8146-3035-8

Peter Hebblethwaite. Paul VI: The First Modern Pope. New York: Paulist Press, 1993.

Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. Liturgical Law Today: New Style, New Spirit. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1977.

Highly Recommended in 2012

Prendergast/Ridge.  Voices from the Council.    Pastoral Press/OCP
M. Basil Pennington.  Vatican II We've Only Just Begun  The Crossroad Publishing Company
Bill Huebsch.  Vatican II in Plain English.  Ave Maria Press
Rita Ferrone, "Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium," Paulist Press
Piero Marini, "Challenging Reform: Realizing the Liturgical Vision of the Liturgical Renewal," Liturgical Press
Wm. Madges and Michael J. Daley, ed. "Vatican II: Forty Personal Stories," Twenty-Third Publications
Johannes H. Emminghaus' The Eucharist:  Essence, Form, Celebration.
Ormond Rush.  Still Interpreting Vatican II. 
Richard R. Gaillardetz.  The Church in the Making

Richard R. Gaillardetz and Catherine E. Clifford, Keys to the Council: Unlocking the Teaching of Vatican II (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2012).  ISBN: 978-0-8146-3368-7.

John W. O'Malley, What Happened At Vatican II (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008).  ISBN: 978-0-674-03169-2.

Ladislaus Orsy, Receiving the Council: Theological and Canonical Insights and Debates,  (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2009).  ISBN: 978-0-8146-5377-7.


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The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II

1. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy ("Sacrosanctum Concilium"), December 4, 1963: ordered an extensive revision of worship so that people would have a clearer sense of their own involvement in the Mass and other rites. [This synopsis is provided by the USCCB News Service]

2. Decree on the Instruments of Social Communication ("Inter Mirifica"), December 4, 1963: called on members of the Church, especially the laity, to instill "a human and Christian spirit" into newspapers, magazines, books, films, radio, and television.

3. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church ("Lumen Gentium"), November 21, 1964: presented the Church as a mystery, as a communion of baptized believers, as the people of god, as the body of Christ, and as a pilgrim moving toward fulfillment in heaven but marked on earth with "a sanctity that is real, although imperfect."

4. Decree on Ecumenism ("Unitatis Redintegratio"), November 21, 1964: said that ecumenism should be everyone's concern and that genuine ecumenism involves a continual personal and institutional renewal.

5. Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches ("Orientalium Ecclesiarum"), November 21, 1964: stated that variety within the Church does not harm its unity and that Eastern churches should retain their own traditions.

6. Decree on the Bishops' Pastoral Office in the Church ("Christus Dominus"), October 28, 1965: said each bishop has full ordinary power in his own diocese and is expected to present Christian doctrine in ways adapted to the times. It urged conferences of bishops to exercise pastoral direction jointly.

7. Decree on Priestly Formation ("Optatam Totius"), October 28, 1965: recommended that seminaries pay attention to the spiritual intellectual and disciplinary formation necessary to prepare priests to become good pastors.

8. Decree on the Appropriate Renewal of the Religious Life ("Perfectae Caritatis"), October 28, 1965: provided guidelines for the personal and institutional renewal of the lives of nuns, brothers, and priests belonging to religious orders.

9. Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions ("Nostra Aetate"), October 28, 1965: said the Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in non-Christian religions, called for an end to anti-Semitism and said any discrimination based on race, color, religion, or condition of life is foreign to the mind of Christ.

10. Declaration on Christian Education ("Gravissimum Educationis"), October 28, 1965: affirmed the right of parents to choose the type of education they want for their children, upheld the importance of Catholic schools and defended freedom of inquiry in Catholic colleges and universities.

11. Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation ("Dei Verbum"), November 18, 1965: said the Church depends on Scripture and tradition as the one deposit of God's word and commended the use of modern scientific scholarship in studying Scripture.

12. Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity ("Apostolicam Actuositatem"), November 18, 1965: said the laity should influence their surroundings with Christ's teachings.

13. Decree on Religious Freedom ("Dignitatis Humanae"), December 7, 1965: said that religious liberty is a right found in the dignity of each person and that on one should be forced to act in a way contrary to his or her own beliefs.

14. Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests ("Presbyterorum Ordinis"), December 7, 1965: said the primary duty of priests is to proclaim the Gospel to all, approved and encouraged celibacy as a gift, and recommended fair salaries.

15. Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity ("Ad Gentes"), December 7, 1965: said missionary activity should help the social and economic welfare of people and not force anyone to accept the faith.

16. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World ("Gaudium et Spes"), December 7, 1965: said the Church must talk to atheists, a continual campaign must be waged for peace, nuclear war is unthinkable, and aid to underdeveloped nations is urgent. It said marriage was not just for procreation and urged science to find an acceptable means of birth regulation.

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Constitution on the Liturgy: Commentary

For the complete text of Sacrosanctum Concilium, see the Vatican website at

Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium

Richstatter Commentary:  Bugnini was the pivotal person in forming the document and the greater part of the text was prepared by Aime-Georges Martimort (1911-2002, from Liturgical Institute in Paris) and Monsignor Johannes Wagner (1908-1922, head of the Liturgical Institute in Trier).

Richstatter Commentary:  For a note on the name of the document see my notes on liturgical law, Chapter 51 Introduction to Liturgical Law  | Naming Roman Documents;  For a note on the relative legal importance of various Roman Documents see my notes on liturgical law, Chapter 51 Introduction to Liturgical Law  | Classification of Roman Documents;  For an outline of the document see my notes on liturgical law, Chapter 51 Introduction to Liturgical Law | Discursive and Dispositive Law

Richstatter Commentary:  Note that the very structure of the document reflects an understanding of liturgy.  (Image of a stone dropped into a pond and concentric circles of ripples go fourth; contrast with image of seven sets of shoes in seven shoe boxes.)

Chapter 1.  The General Principles for the Reform and Promotion of the Sacred Liturgy
Chapter 2.  The Most Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist
Chapter 3.  The Other Sacraments and the Sacramentals
Chapter 4.  Divine Office
Chapter 5.  The Liturgical Year
Chapter 6.  Sacred Music
Chapter 7.  Sacred Art and Sacred Furnishings

Introduction:  Articles 1-4

SC1. This Sacred Council [Sacrosanctum Concilium] has several aims in view: it desires to impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions that are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of humanity into the household of the Church. The Council therefore sees particularly cogent reasons for undertaking the reform and promotion of the liturgy.

Richstatter Commentary:  Note the date, December 4, 1963.  This is the first of the Council documents.  Consequently opening paragraphs of the document go beyond "the liturgy" and addresses the purpose of the Council in general.  The four ends of the council:

1.  to impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful;
2.  to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions that are subject to change;
3.  to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ;
4.  to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of humanity into the household of the Church.

SC2.  For the liturgy, "through which the work of our redemption is accomplished," (1) most of all in the divine sacrifice of the eucharist, is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church. It is of the essence of the Church that she be both human and divine, visible and yet invisibly equipped, eager to act and yet intent on contemplation, present in this world and yet not at home in it; and she is all these things in such wise that in her the human is directed and subordinated to the divine, the visible likewise to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, which we seek (2). While the liturgy daily builds up those who are within into a holy temple of the Lord, into a dwelling place for God in the Spirit (3), to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ (4), at the same time it marvelously strengthens their power to preach Christ, and thus shows forth the Church to those who are outside as a sign lifted up among the nations (5) under which the scattered children of God may be gathered together (6), until there is one sheepfold and one shepherd (7).

Richstatter Commentary:  I think this article contains one of the richest definitions of the liturgy that I have found: "the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church."

[The passage quoted in note (1) is from the Prayer Over the Gifts, Holy Thursday.]

SC3. Wherefore the sacred Council judges that the following principles concerning the promotion and reform of the liturgy should be called to mind, and that practical norms should be established. Among these principles and norms there are some which can and should be applied both to the Roman rite and also to all the other rites. The practical norms which follow, however, should be taken as applying only to the Roman rite, except for those which, in the very nature of things, affect other rites as well.

Richstatter Commentary:  While the Council was meeting in the See City of the Patriarch of the Western Church, the Council also included members of the Eastern Churches.  What of this document applies to them?   In the fourth and fifth centuries a wide diversity of rites began to coalesce into "Rites" or "styles" of liturgy around the great capital cities Byzantium, Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, etc.

SC4. Lastly, in faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that holy Mother Church holds all lawfully acknowledged rites to be of equal right and dignity; that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way. The Council also desires that, where necessary, the rites be revised carefully in the light of sound tradition, and that they be given new vigor to meet the circumstances and needs of modern times.

Richstatter Commentary:  The Council acknowledges the Eastern Churches and then proceeds to discuss the Roman Church's liturgy. 

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1. The Nature of the Sacred Liturgy and Its Importance in the Church's Life

SC 5. God who "wills that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4), "who in many and various ways spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets" (Heb. 1:1), when the fullness of time had come sent His Son, the Word made flesh, anointed by the Holy Spirit, to preach the the gospel to the poor, to heal the contrite of heart (8), to be a "bodily and spiritual medicine" (9), the Mediator between God and man (10). For His humanity, united with the person of the Word, was the instrument of our salvation. Therefore in Christ "the perfect achievement of our reconciliation came forth, and the fullness of divine worship was given to us" (11).

The wonderful works of God among the people of the Old Testament were but a prelude to the work of Christ the Lord in redeeming mankind and giving perfect glory to God. He achieved His task principally by the paschal mystery of His blessed passions resurrection from the dead, and the glorious ascension, whereby "dying, he destroyed our death and, rising, he restored our life" (12). For it was from the side of Christ as He slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth "the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church" (13).

SC 6. Just as Christ was sent by the Father, so also He sent the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit. This He did that, by preaching the gospel to every creature (14), they might proclaim that the Son of God, by His death and resurrection, had freed us from the power of Satan (15) and from death, and brought us into the kingdom of His Father. His purpose also was that they might accomplish the work of salvation which they had proclaimed, by means of sacrifice and sacraments, around which the entire liturgical life revolves. Thus by baptism men are plunged into the paschal mystery of Christ: they die with Him, are buried with Him, and rise with Him (16); they receive the spirit of adoption as sons "in which we cry: Abba, Father" ( Rom. 8 :15), and thus become true adorers whom the Father seeks (17). In like manner, as often as they eat the supper of the Lord they proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes (18). For that reason, on the very day of Pentecost, when the Church appeared before the world, "those who received the word" of Peter "were baptized." And "they continued steadfastly in the teaching of the apostles and in the communion of the breaking of bread and in prayers . . . praising God and being in favor with all the people" (Acts 2:41-47). From that time onwards the Church has never failed to come together to celebrate the paschal mystery: reading those things "which were in all the scriptures concerning him" (Luke 24:27), celebrating the eucharist in which "the victory and triumph of his death are again made present" (19), and at the same time giving thanks "to God for his unspeakable gift" (2 Cor. 9:15) in Christ Jesus, "in praise of his glory" (Eph. 1:12), through the power of the Holy Spirit.

SC 7. To accomplish so great a work, Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, "the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross" (20), but especially under the eucharistic species. By His power He is present in the sacraments, so that when a man baptizes it is really Christ Himself who baptizes (21). He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20) .

Christ indeed always associates the Church with Himself in this great work wherein God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified. The Church is His beloved Bride who calls to her Lord, and through Him offers worship to the Eternal Father.

Rightly, then, the liturgy is considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the liturgy the sanctification of the man is signified by signs perceptible to the senses, and is effected in a way which corresponds with each of these signs; in the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members.

From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which .s the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree.

Richstatter Commentary:  The first paragraph of SC 7 is the basic text for understanding "Real Presence."

SC 8. In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle (22); we sing a hymn to the Lord's glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Savior, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory (23).

SC 9. The sacred liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church. Before men can come to the liturgy they must be called to faith and to conversion: "How then are they to call upon him in whom they have not yet believed? But how are they to believe him whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear if no one preaches? And how are men to preach unless they be sent?" (Rom. 10:14-15).

Therefore the Church announces the good tidings of salvation to those who do not believe, so that all men may know the true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, and may be converted from their ways, doing penance (24). To believers also the Church must ever preach faith and penance, she must prepare them for the sacraments, teach them to observe all that Christ has commanded (25), and invite them to all the works of charity, piety, and the apostolate. For all these works make it clear that Christ's faithful, though not of this world, are to be the light of the world and to glorify the Father before men.

Richstatter Commentary: 

SC 10. Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's supper.

The liturgy in its turn moves the faithful, filled with "the paschal sacraments," to be "one in holiness" (26); it prays that "they may hold fast in their lives to what they have grasped by their faith" (27); the renewal in the eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and man draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets them on fire. From the liturgy, therefore, and especially from the eucharist, as from a font, grace is poured forth upon us; and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God, to which all other activities of the Church are directed as toward their end, is achieved in the most efficacious possible way.

Richstatter Commentary: 

SC 11. But in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain (28) . Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects.

Richstatter Commentary:  What is this "something more"?  It is the thesis of Liturgical Law Today:  New Style, New Spirit that obedience to liturgical law in the post-Vatican II period demands attitudes, knowledge and skill at three levels: i.  general Liturgical Principles; ii.  Norms and Rubrics; and iii.  Pastoral Sensitivity.  For an explanation of this "something more" see my notes on liturgical law, Chapter 51 Introduction to Liturgical Law  | Obedience of Liturgical Law. 

SC 12. The spiritual life, however, is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy. The Christian is indeed called to pray with his brethren, but he must also enter into his chamber to pray to the Father, in secret (29); yet more, according to the teaching of the Apostle, he should pray without ceasing (30). We learn from the same Apostle that we must always bear about in our body the dying of Jesus, so that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodily frame (31). This is why we ask the Lord in the sacrifice of the Mass that, "receiving the offering of the spiritual victim," he may fashion us for himself "as an eternal gift" (32).

13. Popular devotions of the Christian people are to be highly commended, provided they accord with the laws and norms of the Church, above all when they are ordered by the Apostolic See.

Devotions proper to individual Churches also have a special dignity if they are undertaken by mandate of the bishops according to customs or books lawfully approved.

But these devotions should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy, are in some fashion derived from it, and lead the people to it, since, in fact, the liturgy by its very nature far surpasses any of them.

16. The study of liturgy is to be ranked among the compulsory and major courses in seminaries and religious houses of studies; in theological faculties it is to rank among the principal courses. It is to be taught under its theological, historical, spiritual, pastoral, and canonical aspects. Moreover, the other professors, while striving to expound the mystery of Christ and the history of salvation from the angel proper to each of their own subjects, must nevertheless do so in a way that will clearly bring out the connection between their subjects and the liturgy, as also the underlying unity o all priestly training. This consideration is especially important for professors of dogmatic, spiritual, and pastoral theology and for professors of holy Scripture.

21. In order that the Christian people may more surely derive an abundance of graces from the liturgy, the Church desires to undertake with great care a general reform of the liturgy itself. For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements, divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything our of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become pointless.

In this reform both texts and rites should be so drawn up that they express more clearly the holy things they signify and that he Christian people, as far as possible, are able to understand them with ease and to take part in the rites fully, actively, and as befits a community.

Wherefore the Council establishes the general norms that follow.

24. Sacred Scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from Scripture that the readings are given and explained in the homily and that the psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration; it is from the Scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. Thus to achieve the reform, progress, and adaptation of the liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for Scripture to which the venerable tradition of both Eastern and Western rites gives testimony.

B. Norms Drawn from the Hierarchic and Communal Nature of the Liturgy

26. Liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations belonging to the Church, which is the "sacrament of unity," namely, the holy people united and ordered under their bishops.

Therefore liturgical services involve the whole Body of the Church; they manifest it and have effects upon it; but they also concern the individual members of the Church in different ways, according to their different orders, offices, and actual participation.

27. Whenever rites, according to their specific nature, make provision for communal celebration involving the presence and active participation of the faithful, it is to be stressed that this way of celebrating them is to be preferred, as far as possible, to a celebration that is individual and, so to speak, private.

This applies with special force to the celebration of Mass and the administration of the sacraments, even though every Mass has of itself a public and social character.

C. Norms Based on the Teaching and Pastoral Character of the Liturgy

33. Although the liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine majesty, it likewise contains rich instruction for the faithful. For in the liturgy God is speaking to his people and Christ is still proclaiming his Gospel. And the people are responding to God by both song and prayer.

Moreover, the prayers addressed to God by the priest, who presides over the assembly in the person of Christ, are said in the name of the entire holy people and of all present. And the visible signs used by the liturgy to signify invisible divine realities have been chosen by Christ or the Church. Thus not only when things are read "that were written for our instruction" (Rom 15:4), but also when the Church prays or sings or acts, the faith of those taking part is nourished and their minds are raised to God, so that they may offer him their worship as intelligent beings and receive his grace more abundantly.

In the reform of the liturgy, therefore, the following general norms are to be observed.

35. That the intimate connection between words and rites may stand out clearly in the liturgy:

3. A more explicitly liturgical catechesis should also be given in a variety of ways. Within the rites themselves provision is to be made for brief comments, when needed, by the priest or a qualified minister; they should occur only at the more suitable moments and use a set formula or something similar.

SC 40.

Richstatter Commentary: Article: liturgical adaptation
    a.  2 stages of the reform
        i.  rediscovery of structure and elements
       ii.  inculturation
    b.  We are only beginning stage 2.

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41. The bishop is to be looked on as the high priest of his flock, the faithful's life in Christ in some way deriving from and depending on him. Therefore all should hold in great esteem the liturgical life of the diocese centered around the bishop, especially in his cathedral church; they must be convinced that the preeminent manifestation of the Church is present in the full, active participation of all God's holy people in these liturgical celebrations, especially in the same eucharist, in a single prayer, at one altar at which the bishop presides, surrounded by his college of priests and by his ministers.

42. But because it is impossible for the bishop always and everywhere to preside over the whole flock in his Church, he cannot do otherwise than establish lesser groupings of the faithful. Among these the parishes, set up locally under a pastor taking the place of the bishop, are the most important: in some manner they represent the visible Church established throughout the world.

And therefore both in attitude and in practice the liturgical life of the parish and its relationship to the bishop must be fostered among the faithful and clergy; efforts must also be made toward a lively sense of community within the parish, above all in the shared celebration of the Sunday Mass.

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Chapter II. The Most Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist

47. At the Last Supper, on the night when he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the eucharistic sacrifice of his body and blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the centuries until he should come again and in this way to entrust to his beloved Bride, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a body of charity, a paschal banquet "in which Christ is eaten, the heart is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us."

48. The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred service conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full involvement. They should be instructed by God's word and be nourished at the table of the Lord's body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn to offer themselves as well; through Christ the Mediator, they should be formed day by day into an ever more perfect unity with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all.

51. The treasures of the Bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that a richer share in God's word may be provided for the faithful. In this way a more representative portion of holy Scripture will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years.

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Chapter III: The Other Sacraments and the Sacramentals.

59. The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the body of Christ, and, finally, to give worship to God; because they are signs they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called "sacraments of faith." They do indeed impart grace, but, in addition, the very act of celebrating them most effectively disposes the faithful to receive this grace in a fruitful manner, to worship God duly, and to practice charity.

It is therefore of the highest importance that the faithful should easily understand the sacramental signs, and should frequent with great eagerness those sacraments which were instituted to nourish the Christian life.

60. Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals. These are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments: they signify effects, particularly of a spiritual kind, which are obtained through the Church's intercession. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy.

61. Thus, for well-disposed members of the faithful, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event in their lives; they are given access to the stream of divine grace which flows from the paschal mystery of the passion, death, the resurrection of Christ, the font from which all sacraments and sacramentals draw their power. There is hardly any proper use of material things which cannot thus be directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God.

62. With the passage of time, however, there have crept into the rites of the sacraments and sacramentals certain features which have rendered their nature and purpose far from clear to the people of today; hence some changes have become necessary to adapt them to the needs of our own times. For this reason the sacred Council decrees as follows concerning their revision.

63. Because of the use of the mother tongue in the administration of the sacraments and sacramentals can often be of considerable help to the people, this use is to be extended according to the following norms:

a) The vernacular language may be used in administering the sacraments and sacramentals, according to the norm of Art. 36.

b) In harmony with the new edition of the Roman Ritual, particular rituals shall be prepared without delay by the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, of this Constitution. These rituals, which are to be adapted, also as regards the language employed, to the needs of the different regions, are to be reviewed by the Apostolic See and then introduced into the regions for which they have been prepared. But in drawing up these rituals or particular collections of rites, the instructions prefixed to the individual rites the Roman Ritual, whether they be pastoral and rubrical or whether they have special social import, shall not be omitted.

64. The catechumenate for adults, comprising several distinct steps, is to be restored and to be taken into use at the discretion of the local ordinary. By this, means the time of the catechumenate, which is intended as a period of suitable instruction, may be sanctified by sacred rites to be celebrated at successive intervals of time.

65. In mission lands it is found that some of the peoples already make use of initiation rites. Elements from these, when capable of being adapted to Christian ritual, may be admitted along with those already found in Christian tradition, according to the norm laid down in Art. 37-40, of this Constitution.

66. Both the rites for the baptism of adults are to be revised: not only the simpler rite, but also the more solemn one, which must take into account the restored catechumenate. A special Mass "for the conferring of baptism" is to be inserted into the Roman Missal.

67. The rite for the baptism of infants is to be revised, and it should be adapted to the circumstance that those to be baptized are, in fact, infants. The roles of parents and godparents, and also their duties, should be brought out more clearly in the rite itself.

68. The baptismal rite should contain variants, to be used at the discretion of the local ordinary, for occasions when a very large number are to be baptized together. Moreover, a shorter rite is to be drawn up, especially for mission lands, to be used by catechists, but also by the faithful in general when there is danger of death, and neither priest nor deacon is available.

69. In place of the rite called the "Order of supplying what was omitted in the baptism of an infant," a new rite is to be drawn up. This should manifest more fittingly and clearly that the infant, baptized by the short rite, has already been received into the Church.

And a new rite is to be drawn up for converts who have already been validly baptized; it should indicate that they are now admitted to communion with the Church.

70. Except during Eastertide, baptismal water may be blessed within the rite of baptism itself by an approved shorter formula.

71. The rite of confirmation is to be revised and the intimate connection which this sacrament has with the whole of Christian initiation is to be more clearly set forth; for this reason it is fitting for candidates to renew their baptismal promises just before they are confirmed.

Confirmation may be given within the Mass when convenient; when it is given outside the Mass, the rite that is used should be introduced by a formula to be drawn up for this purpose.

72. The rite and formulas for the sacrament of penance are to be revised so that they more clearly express both the nature and effect of the sacrament.

73. "Extreme unction," which may also and more fittingly be called "anointing of the sick," is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as any one of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived.

74. In addition to the separate rites for anointing of the sick and for viaticum, a continuous rite shall be prepared according to which the sick man is anointed after he has made his confession and before he receives viaticum.

75. The number of the anointings is to be adapted to the occasion, and the prayers which belong to the rite of anointing are to be revised so as to correspond with the varying conditions of the sick who receive the sacrament.

76. Both the ceremonies and texts of the ordination rites are to be revised. The address given by the bishop at the beginning of each ordination or consecration may be in the mother tongue.

When a bishop is consecrated, the laying of hands may be done by all the bishops present.

77. The marriage rite now found in the Roman Ritual is to be revised and enriched in such a way that the grace of the sacrament is more clearly signified and the duties of the spouses are taught.

"If any regions are wont to use other praiseworthy customs and ceremonies when celebrating the sacrament of matrimony, the sacred Synod earnestly desires that these by all means be retained" (41).

Moreover the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 52, of this Constitution is free to draw up its own rite suited to the usages of place and people, according to the provision of Art. 63. But the rite must always conform to the law that the priest assisting at the marriage must ask for and obtain the consent of the contracting parties.

78. Matrimony is normally to be celebrated within the Mass, after the reading of the gospel and the homily, and before "the prayer of the faithful." The prayer for the bride, duly amended to remind both spouses of their equal obligation to remain faithful to each other, may be said in the mother tongue.

But if the sacrament of matrimony is celebrated apart from Mass, the epistle and gospel from the nuptial Mass are to be read at the beginning of the rite, and the blessing should always be given to the spouses.

79. The sacramentals are to undergo a revision which takes into account the primary principle of enabling the faithful to participate intelligently, actively, and easily; the circumstances of our own days must also be considered. When rituals are revised, as laid down in Art. 63, new sacramentals may also be added as the need for these becomes apparent.

Reserved blessings shall be very few; reservations shall be in favor of bishops or ordinaries.

Let provision be made that some sacramentals, at least in special circumstances and at the discretion of the ordinary, may be administered by qualified lay persons.

80. The rite for the consecration of virgins at present found in the Roman Pontifical is to be revised.

Moreover, a rite of religious profession and renewal of vows shall be drawn up in order to achieve greater unity, sobriety, and dignity. Apart from exceptions in particular law, this rite should be adopted by those who make their profession or renewal of vows within the Mass.

Religious profession should preferably be made within the Mass.

81. The rite for the burial of the dead should express more clearly the paschal character of Christian death, and should correspond more closely to the circumstances and traditions found in various regions. This holds good also for the liturgical color to be used.

82. The rite for the burial of infants is to be revised, and a special Mass for the occasion should be provided.

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Chapter V. The Liturgical Year

102. The Church is conscious that it must celebrate the saving work of the divine Bridegroom by devoutly recalling it on certain days throughout the course of the year. Every week, on the day which the Church has called the Lord's Day, it keeps the memory of the Lord's resurrection, which it also celebrates once in the year, together with his blessed passion, in the most solemn festival of Easter.

Within the cycle of a year, moreover, the Church unfolds the whole mystery of Christ, from his incarnation and birth until his ascension, the day of Pentecost, and the expectation of blessed hope and of the Lord's return.

Recalling thus the mysteries of redemption, the church opens to the faithful the riches of the Lord's powers and merits, so that these are in some way made present in every age in order that the faithful may lay hold on them and be filled with saving grace.

103. In celebrating this annual cycle of Christ's mysteries, the Church honors with special love Mary, the Mother of God, who is joined by an inseparable bond to the saving work of her Son. In her the Church holds up and admires the most excellent effect of the redemption and joyfully contemplates, as in a flawless image, that which the Church itself desires and hopes wholly to be.

104. The church has also included in the annual cycle days devoted to the memory of the martyrs and the other saints. Raised up to perfection by the manifold grace of God and already in possession of eternal salvation, they sing God's perfect praise in heaven and offer prayers for us. By celebrating their passage from earth to heaven the Church proclaims the paschal mystery achieved in the saints, who have suffered and been glorified with Christ; it proposes them to the faithful as example drawing all to the Father through Christ and pleads through their merits for God's favors.

105. Finally, in the various seasons of the year and according to its traditional discipline, the Church completes the formation of the faithful by means of devout practices for soul and body, by instruction, prayer, and works of penance and of mercy.

Accordingly the sacred Council has seen fit to decree what follows.

106. By a tradition handed down from the apostles and having its origin from the very day of Christ's resurrection, the Church celebrates the paschal mystery every eighth day, which, with good reason, bears the name of the Lord's Day or Sunday. For on this day Christ's faithful must gather together so that, by hearing the word of God and taking part in the eucharist, they may call to mind the passion, the resurrection, and the glorification of the Lord Jesus and may thank God, who "has begotten them again unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pt 1:3). Hence the Lord's Day is the first holyday of all and should be proposed to the devotion of the faithful and taught to them in such a way that it may become in fact a day of joy and of freedom from work. Other celebrations, unless they be truly of greatest importance, shall not have precedence over the Sunday, the foundation and core of the whole liturgical year.

107. The liturgical year is to be so revised that the traditional customs and usages of the sacred seasons are preserved or restored to suit the conditions of modern times, their specific character is to be retained, so that they duly nourish the devotion of the faithful who celebrate the mysteries of Christian redemption and above all the paschal mystery. If certain adaptations are considered necessary on account of local conditions, they are to be made in accordance with the provisions of aft. 39 and 40.

108. The minds of the faithful must be directed primarily toward those feasts of the Lord on which the mysteries of salvation are celebrated in the course of the year. Therefore, the Proper of Seasons shall be given the precedence due to it over the feasts of the saints, in order that the entire cycle of the mysteries of salvation may be celebrated in the measure due to them.

109. Lent is marked by two themes, the baptismal and the penitential. By recalling or preparing for baptism and by repentance, this season disposes the faithful as they more diligently listen to the word of God and devote themselves to prayer, to celebrate the paschal mystery. The baptismal and penitential aspects of Lent are to be given greater prominence in both the liturgy and liturgical catechesis. Hence:

a. More use is to be made of the baptismal features proper to the Lenten liturgy; some of those from an earlier era are to be restored as may seem advisable.

b. The same is to apply to the penitential elements. As regards catechesis, it is important to impress on the minds of the faithful not only the social consequences of sin but also the essence of the virtue of penance, namely, detestation of sin as an offense against God; the role of the church in penitential practices is not to be neglected and the people are to be exhorted to pray for sinners.

110. During Lent penance should be not only inward and individual, but also outward and social. The practice of penance should be fostered, however, n ways that are possible in our own times and in different regions and according to the circumstances of the faithful; it should be encouraged by the authorities mentioned in art. 22.

Nevertheless, let the paschal fast be kept sacred. Let it be observed everywhere on Good Friday and, where possible, prolonged throughout Holy Saturday, as a way of coming to the joys of the Sunday of the resurrection with uplifted and welcoming heart.

111. The saints have been traditionally honored in the Church and their authentic relics and images held in veneration. For the feasts of the saints proclaim the wonderful works of Christ in his servants and display to the faithful fitting examples for their imitation.

Lest the feasts of the saints take precedence over the feasts commemorating the very mysteries of salvation, many of them should be left to be celebrated by a particular Church or nation or religious family; those only should be extended to the universal Church that commemorate saints of truly universal significance.

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Constitution on the Church:  Outline

Proposed Schema of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church

1.  The nature of the Church militant
2.  The members of the Church militant and the necessity of the Church for salvation
3.  The episcopate as the supreme degree of the sacrament of Orders and the priesthood
4.  Residential bishops
5.  The states of evangelical perfection (Religious)
6.  The laity
7.  The teaching authority of the Church
8.  Authority and obedience in the Church
9.  Church-State relations
10.  The need for the Church to announce the Gospel to all nations
11.  Ecumenism

The bishops did not react favorably to this schema -- we see their remarks in the "Acts of the discussions during the Council" (Acta Synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II).  They found it was composed in terms which were too "juridical" and which did not correspond to the purpose of the Council.   (see Richstatter, Liturgical Law Today, pp. 67, 68)  The chapter titles of the document approved by the Council Fathers two years later, November 21, 1964, are as follows:

1.  The mystery of the Church
2.  The people of God
3.  The Hierarchical structure of the Church, with special reference to the episcopate
4.  The Laity
5.  The call of the Whole Church to Holiness
6.   Religious
7.   The eschatological nature of the pilgrim Church and her union with the heavenly Church
8.   The role of the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the mystery of Christ and the Church 

Richstatter Commentary:  In this view of the Church, the relation between the Church and the liturgy is different than in the perspective of Mediator  Dei. 

In Mediator Dei, Christ instituted the Church and the Church as institution makes laws which regulate the liturgy. 

In Lumen Gentium, Christ, the primal sacrament, through his death and resurrection sends the Spirit and form the Church as sacrament.  The Church, formed by the sacraments, finds in the liturgy a source of Church Law.  K. Barth states that Church law is liturgical in its origin, that it creates order based upon the cult and is renewed in the cult at the same time that it assures liturgical order. 

Congar states that it is the sacraments which constitute and structure the Church, and consequently the liturgy constitutes one of the sources of Church law.  In this regard, Congar quotes St. Thomas:  "The source of all law is found in the sacraments."  (see Richstatter, Liturgical Law Today, pp. 69.  The books referred to in this comment can be found in Liturgical Law Today, page 82.)  See the notes on Lex orandi.

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Constitution on the Church:  Commentary

For the complete text of Lumen Gentium see the Vatican website at

LG 11. It is through the sacraments and the exercise of the virtues that the sacred nature and organic structure of the priestly community is brought into operation. Incorporated in the Church through baptism, the faithful are destined by the baptismal character for the worship of the Christian religion; reborn as sons of God they must confess before men the faith which they have received from God through the Church (4*). They are more perfectly bound to the Church by the sacrament of Confirmation, and the Holy Spirit endows them with special strength so that they are more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith, both by word and by deed, as true witnesses of Christ (5*). Taking part in the eucharistic sacrifice, which is the fount and apex of the whole Christian life, they offer the Divine Victim to God, and offer themselves along with It.(6*) Thus both by reason of the offering and through Holy Communion all take part in this liturgical service, not indeed, all in the same way but each in that way which is proper to himself. Strengthened in Holy Communion by the Body of Christ, they then manifest in a concrete way that unity of the people of God which is suitably signified and wondrously brought about by this most august sacrament.

Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from the mercy of God for the offence committed against Him and are at the same time reconciled with the Church, which they have wounded by their sins, and which by charity, example, and prayer seeks their conversion. By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of her priests the whole Church commends the sick to the suffering and glorified Lord, asking that He may lighten their suffering and save them;(106) she exhorts them, moreover, to contribute to the welfare of the whole people of God by associating themselves freely with the passion and death of Christ.(107) Those of the faithful who are consecrated by Holy Orders are appointed to feed the Church in Christ's name with the word and the grace of God. Finally, Christian spouses, in virtue of the sacrament of Matrimony, whereby they signify and partake of the mystery of that unity and fruitful love which exists between Christ and His Church,(108) help each other to attain to holiness in their married life and in the rearing and education of their children. By reason of their state and rank in life they have their own special gift among the people of God.(109) (7*) From the wedlock of Christians there comes the family, in which new citizens of human society are born, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit received in baptism are made children of God, thus perpetuating the people of God through the centuries. The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state.

Fortified by so many and such powerful means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord, each in his own way, to that perfect holiness whereby the Father Himself is perfect.

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49. [...] All those who belong to Christ, possessing his Spirit, come together into the one Church and are joined together in Christ (see Eph 4:16). The union between those who are still pilgrims and their brothers and sisters who have died in the peace of Christ is therefore not broken, but rather strengthened by a communion in spiritual blessings; this has always been the faith of the Church. Because those in heaven are more closely united with Christ, they ground the whole Church more firmly in holiness, lend nobility to the worship the Church offers to God here on earth, and in many ways contribute to its up building (see 1 Cor 12:12-27). (5) For after they have been received into their heavenly home and are present to the Lord (see 2 Cor 5:8), through him and with him and in him they do not cease to intercede with the Father for us. (6) They show forth the merits they have won on earth the one Mediator between God and us (see 1 Tm 2:5) by serving God in all things and filling up in their flesh those things that are lacking of the sufferings of Christ for his Body which is the Church (see Col 1:24). [7 = See Pius XII, loc. cit.: 245.] Thus their familial concern brings us great aid in our weakness.

51. This Council accepts with great devotion the revered faith of our ancestors regarding this vital communion with our own who are in heavenly glory or who after death are still being purified and it reaffirms the decrees of the Council of Nicea II, of Florence, and of Trent. At the same time, in conformity with our own pastoral interests, we urge all concerned, if any abuses, excesses, or shortcomings have crept in here or there, to do what is in their power to remove or correct them and to reform all things for a fuller praise of Christ and of God. Let them therefore teach the faithful that the authentic veneration of the saints consists not so much in the multiplying of external acts as in the greater intensity of our love, whereby, for our own greater good and that of the whole Church, we seek from the saints "example in their way of life, company in their communion, and aid in their intercession." (SC art 8) On the other hand, let them teach the faithful that our communion with those in heaven, provided it be understood in the full light of faith, in no way weakens but instead more thoroughly enriches the worship of adoration we give to God the Father, through Christ, in the spirit. (22 Vat Sc art 8)

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IV. Veneration of the Blessed Virgin in the church

66. Mary, as the Mother of God, placed by grace next to her Son above all angels and saints, has shared in the mysteries of Christ and is justly honored by a special veneration in the church. From earliest times she has been honored under the title of Mother of God, under whose protection the faithful take refuge in all their perils and needs. Hence from the Council of Ephesus onward the devotion of the people of God toward May wonderfully increased in veneration and love, in invocation and imitation, according to her own prophetic words: "All generations shall call me blessed, because he that is almighty hath done great things for me" (Lk 1:48-49). Devotion to Mary as it has always existed in the Church, even though it is altogether special, is essentially distinct from the worship of adoration paid equally to the Word incarnate, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Honoring Mary contributes to that adoration. For the various forms of Marian devotion sanctioned by the Church, within the limits of sound orthodoxy and suited to circumstances of time and place as well as to the character and culture of peoples, have the effect that as we honor the Mother we also truly know the Son and give love, glory, and obedience to him, through whom all things have their being (see Col 1:15-16) and "in whom it has pleased the eternal Father that all fullness should dwell" (Col 1:19)

67. It is the express intent of this Council to profess this Catholic teaching and at the same time to counsel all the Church's children to foster wholeheartedly the cultus -- especially the liturgical cultus -- of the Blessed Virgin, to treasure those Marian devotions and practices commended over the centuries by the Church's magisterium, and to adhere religiously to those decrees laid down of old regarding veneration of images of Christ, the Blessed Virgin, and the saints.(7) The Council also strongly urges theologians and preachers of God's word as they treat of the unique dignity of the Mother of God to refrain alike from exaggerating and from minimizing. (8) Devoted under the guidance of the magisterium to the study of sacred Scripture, of the Fathers and doctors, and of the liturgies of the Church, they should explain soundly the offices and privileges of the Blessed Virgin in their inseparable relationship to Christ, the source of all truth, holiness, and devotion. They are to guard conscientiously against anything in word or act that might lead Christians separated from us or anyone else to a mistaken idea of what precisely the Church teaches on Mary. For their part, the faithful must be mindful that true devotion does not consist in sheer, passing feeling, or in mindless credulity, but that it issues from an authentic faith that leads us to acknowledge the exaltedness of the Mother of God and inspires us to filial love for her as our Mother and an imitation of her virtues.

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Working Groups

Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia
Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy
(See:  Liturgical Law Today, pp 89, 102, 201, 227.)

January 25, 1964. Paul VI with the motu proprio Sacram liturgiam sets up the Consilium [which was a group of the leading liturgical scholars of the age]  to implement the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. The Consilium divided itself into about forty working groups ( = coetus) each with a chairman. The groups were further divided or changed as the work progressed. The authorship of the documents was done "sub secreto" [i.e. none of the names were published] so that the proper respect for the document would be maintained. (I have constructed the following list from various sources:  class notes, antidotal reports, etc.)

1. The Calendar -- Jounel, Dirks OP
2. The Psalter
3. The Distribution of the Psalms in the Breviary -- Pascher,  Vincenzo Raffa Secretary
4. The Biblical Readings for the Breviary -- Lengling, Martimort
5. The Patristic Readings for the Breviary -- Pellegrino, Rotell
6. The Historical Readings for the Breviary and Historical Texts -- De Gaiffier SJ
7. The Hymns of the Breviary -- P.A. Lentini OSB
8. The Music for the Divine Office - Vixentin OSB
9. The General Structure of the Divine Office -- Martimort
10. The Order of Mass -- Chair Monsignor Johannes Wagner 1908-1922 head of the Liturgical Institute in Trier.   Also on the coetus were Aime-Georges Martimort 1911-2002, from Liturgical Institute in Paris and Balthasar Fischer 1912-2001, from the Liturgical Institute in Trier, and Joseph Gelineau, S.J. (b. 1920 - )  Gelineau SJ worked on the new Eucharistic Prayers together with Vagaggini OSB. 
11. The Readings at Mass -- Vagaggini OSB, Diekmann OSB
12. The Common Prayer
12bis. The Common Prayer at Lauds and Vespers -- V. Raffa FDP
13. Votive Masses -- Roget OP, Schmidt SJ
14. Music for Mass -- Moneta Caglio
15. The General Structure of the Mass
16. Concelebration
17. Special Rites during the Liturgical Year -- Bishop Antonius Hanggi
18. Revising the Commons of the Breviary and Missal -- Neunheuser OSB
18bis. Revising the Prayers and Prefaces -- Dumas OSB
19. The Rubrics of the Breviary and Missal
20. The Pontifical, Book I (includes Confirmation) -- B. Botte OSB 
21. The Pontifical, Books II and III
22. The Roman Ritual I (includes The Baptism of Infants -- Gy O.P; includes The Initiation of Adults) -- B. Fisher, I. Cellier  [Pierre-Marie Gy, OP, 1922-2004 director of the Institut Superieur de Liturgie, Paris;  Fr. Dr. Prof. Balthasar Fischer 1912-2001, director of the Liturgical Institute in Trier, Germany]
22bis. The Consecration to a Life of Virginity -- A. Dirks OP
23. The Roman Ritual II (includes Marriage, Anointing, Funerals) -- P.-M. Gy OP, Cellier
24. The Roman Ritual III (includes Penance) -- Lecuyer CSSP
24. The Books of Chant, The Simple Gradual -- Cardine OSB, Agustoni
25. The Ceremonial for Bishops
28. Doctrinal Revisions
39. The Papal Chapel
40. The Preparation of Statutes -- Bonet
41. The Martyrology -- J. Dubois OSB, (Jounel)

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Major Post-Conciliar Instructions

In order to facilitate the implementation of the liturgical renewal desired by the Council Fathers, Rome has subsequently published five documents of special importance, each successively numbered as an "Instruction for the Right Application of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council." They are:

1.  Inter Oecumenici, published on September 26, 1964.  This contained initial principles for the orderly carrying out of the liturgical renewal.

2.  Tres abhinc annos, published on May 4, 1967.  This documents described further adaptations to the Order of Mass.

3.   Liturgicae instaurationes, published on September 5, 1970.  This document provided directives on the central role of the Bishop in the renewal of the Liturgy throughout the diocese.

4.  Varietates ligitimae, published on January 25, 1994.  This document concerned itself with the difficult questions on the Roman Liturgy and inculturation.

5.  Liturgiam authenticam, published March 28, 2001. This fifth instruction deals with the issue of translations.  The document disapproves of dynamic equivalence ,which was prescribed in the instruction Comme le Prevoit preferring the formal equivalence method of liturgical translation


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Sacramental Theology at the Time of Vatican II

(Compare what follows with my summary of the sacraments during Period 8 of the Historical Grid)

Sacraments in General

The second Vatican Council revolutionized the way in which sacraments are celebrated and viewed theologically. The second Vatican Council rediscovers a Church composed of all the faithful, the people of God. By the sacraments of initiation a person becomes "Another Christ" and participates in His ministry of priest, prophet, and king.

The Sacraments are all acts of the Church -- not private functions and consequently they influence the whole Church. "It is to be stressed that whenever rites, according to their specific nature, make provision for communal celebration involving the presence and active participation of the faithful, this way of celebrating them is to be preferred, so far as possible, to a celebration that is individual and quasi-private." (SC 17)

1.  Rediscovery of Baptism and the common priesthood of the faithful removes the sacraments from the exclusive domain of the clergy and restores them to the Body of Christ. 
2.  Sacraments move from "things" to "celebrations of interpersonal relationships" (i.e. Grace); our understanding of sacraments moves from
noun to verb.


The Eucharist is not merely #3 of 7 sacramental rituals, it is the source and summit of all the sacraments.

The Eucharist is returned to all the baptized following upon the ecclesiology of the Council by which all the baptized celebrate the Eucharist "in Persona Christi." Following upon this fundamental change, were many secondary changes:

1. The vernacular
2. The lectionary (the restoration of the Bible to the laity)
3. The laity present their gifts at the table.
4. The restoration of the Holy Spirit to the prayer.
5. The kiss of peace.
6. The homily
7. The general intercessions
8. Concelebration
9. Communion from the cup.

The focus of the Eucharistic Prayer shifts from the change of the bread and wine into the Body of Christ to the change of the assembly into the Body of Christ.

The key shift in the theology of the Eucharist is from Eucharist as sacrifice to Eucharist as sacrament, sacrifice, meal, and presence. (These are celebrated in the mysteries of Christmas, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.) Eucharist becomes the model for all Sacramental celebrations.

1.  Restored the lectionary.  The meal sharing takes place in its biblical context. 
2.  Movement from "receiving Eucharist" to "meal sharing".
3.  Restoration of priesthood of the faithful restores the Eucharist to the assembly. 
4.  Holy Spirit returns to the Eucharist through the Epiclesis. 


The second Vatican Council rediscovers a Church composed of all the faithful, the people of God. By the sacraments of initiation a person becomes "Another Christ" and participates in his ministry of priest, prophet, and king.

Five documents were published by the council:
1. A general introduction to the sacraments of Initiation.
2. A rite designed specifically for the baptism of infants.
3. A new rite for Confirmation of those baptized as infants and not immediately confirmed.
4. The revolutionary rite for Christian Initiation for Adults.
5. The Rite for Reception of Baptized Christians into Full Communion in the Catholic Church.

1.  Vat II created for the first time a Rite specifically for infants (formerly infants we baptized with the emergency Rite for adults).
2.  Restored the ancient order of the catechumenate in the revised "Rite for Christian Initiation of Adults".


Re-established the normative sequence: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist. Published a new Rite for Confirmation for those Catholics baptized as infants and not immediately confirmed.

Confirmation has no independent meanings; Confirmation means what Baptism means.

1.  The theological understanding of Confirmation is returned to its historical place in the initiation sequence [Baptism Confirmation eucharist] even when not celebrated in this sequence ritually  [e.g. the RCIA presents the normative theology].
2.  The bishop is the original minister [change from "ordinary" to "original"] of Confirmation.  [The bishop / pastor / overseer was the original minister of all the sacraments; that is the overseer presided at all the church assembly did.]
3.  The meaning of Confirmation is not "age dependent."  [The meaning of each and every sacrament is not dependent on the age of the recipients.]
4.  Change in the "form" of the sacrament; clarification of the sacramental sign [anointing with imposition of hand].


The last of the sacramental rituals to be revised, a new Rite of Reconciliation is published with three chapters. Rite 1 which is scholastic confession updated with scripture readings, interpersonal dialogue, a new prayer of absolution in the vernacular, etc. Rite II which is a true communal rite with the focus on "What Jesus does!" And Rite III which is a true communal rite without individual confession of sins.

1.  At the time of the Council "Confession" was a primarily a devotional practice, and in the first drafts of chapter 3 of the Constitution on the Liturgy ("The Other Sacraments and Sacramentals") there was no mention of the sacrament! 

Anointing of the Sick

A completely new rite for this sacrament was published: changing the matter, form, and the name of the sacrament - things that "had been established by Christ Himself."

The emphasis shifts from forgiveness of sins to healing.

The rite is for those who are seriously ill -- but this is not restricted to bodily illness.

The Aristotelian Dichotomy of Body and Soul is replaced by a more holistic view of the human person: body, mind, and spirit.

1.  Changes name:  "Extreme Unction" to "Anointing of the Sick"
2.  Changes purpose:   from "dying / dead" to "sick / healing" (danger of death to serious illness).
3.  Changes "matter" -- "olive oil" to "any plant oil"
4.  Changes the "form" -- text moves from "forgiveness of sins" to "healing in mind, body, and spirit."


Baptism is restored as the basic sacrament which makes one "another Christ".

The catechumenate is restored as one of the permanent Orders of the Church.

The Diaconate is restored as a separate and permanent Order in the Church.

A new theology of the Presbyter develops which sees the priest as a minister in the midst of the faithful rather than a "man set apart".

A new theology of the Episcopate develops in which the bishop is seen as a separate order "rather than a priest with special powers of jurisdiction." The bishop is the overseer of his local church and also has a common responsibility of the Church universal.

1.  Restoration of the baptismal priesthood of all the faithful.  The theology of Bishop, Presbyter, and Deacon is seen in perichoresis with the priesthood of Christ and the priesthood of the baptized. 
2.  The traditional five Orders of the Church are restored with the re-valorization of the Deaconate.
3.  Episcopacy is a distinct Order (i.e. a bishop is not simply a presbyter with extra jurisdiction).


The major change was the shift from marriage as contract to marriage as covenant of mutual love.

1.  Marriage "contract" become marriage "covenant"
2.  The purpose of marriage enlarged from procreation of children to mutual love and procreation of children.

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To Think About

Did you learn anything new about the CSL from what you have read and heard? How has this chapter altered your attitude toward liturgy? What ministerial skills would you like to possess in order to help your parishioners implement the spirit of the Council?

Name any four of the 16 documents issued by the Second Vatican Council.

How are Roman documents titled?

What was the popular understanding of "liturgy" in the minds of American Catholics before the Council (e.g .the definition in Mediator Dei)? How did the Council change this understanding?  Define liturgy. Explain and defend your definition. Where in the magisterium can a definition of liturgy be found? Give several pastoral implications of this definition. How has our renewed understanding of "Church" influenced our understanding of "Liturgy"?

What are the four ends of the Council according to the CSL?

Name the major Sacramentaries.

Using the ten historical periods given in your notes be able to make a significant statement about theology, liturgy, sacraments, and ministry for each of the ten historical periods.

Describe the history and formation of the Constitution on the Liturgy.

Name from memory the titles of the chapters of this document. In what way do the titles of the chapters presuppose an certain understanding of liturgy. What happens to this vision when it gets incorporated into the Code of Canon Law?

Identify: discursive law, dispositive law.

In your copy of the CSL, mark the discursive and dispositive sections of each of the seven chapters.

What is a Rite. E.g. Coptic Rite.

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter.  All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 09/18/13 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at